Homestead Leaders Developing Strategic Plan for $600M to DHHL

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The Hawaii State Legislature has appropriated $600 million in general funds to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) to address the waitlist of more than 28,000 families waiting for land allotments promised under the federal Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 (HHCA) and again at Statehood in 1959. Act 276, the Waitlist Reduction Act was signed into law by Gov. Ige in July 2022.

Act 276 includes relevant and flexible options to encumber $600 million to advance HHCA beneficiary families on DHHL’s waitlist. It also includes a mandate for DHHL to produce a strategic plan for the $600 million by December 2022.

The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA) views the legislature’s mandate as an opportunity to offer their own strategic plan from the perspective of the citizens most impacted by the HHCA since statehood.

SCHHA is a 35-year-old coalition of homestead associations. Member organization, the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands (AHHL), is dedicated to ending the waitlist. Together, SCHHA and AHHL launched a policy project to produce a $600 Million Beneficiary Spending and Strategic Plan.

To produce the strategic plan, SCHHA scheduled four consultation sessions between May and November.

The most recent session, on July 23, involved 65 SCHHA homestead and waitlist leaders.

Photo: Hawaiian Homestead leaders meet at the SCHHA Summit
Some 65 Hawaiian Homestead leaders from across the pae ʻāina met in July to begin creating a strategic plan for allocation of the $600 million appropriated to DHHL during the past legislative session. They will submit their plan to the incoming governor, legislators and DHHL administration. – Photo: Courtesy

“The Summit was powerful,” said AHHL Chairman Mike Kahikina. “People translated decades of hurt, of disappointment in state government, into hope and possibilities.”

Hundreds of recommendations from the July summit have been recorded and will inform the SCHHA/AHHL plan scheduled for submission to the newly elected incoming governor, legislators and DHHL administrators by Dec. 10, 2022.

“This is patient work, worthy work,” said AHHL Waitlist Vice Chair Vanessa Garcia Phillips. “Our members have untapped experience and skills. Too many in government assume we know nothing about the HHCA, they tell us ‘it’s too complicated,’ but really, it is not. The Act is straightforward – it has always been straightforward.”

“It is incumbent on us as homestead associations to be a part of the solution,” said SCHAA Policy Chairman Kipukai Kualii. “And for state and federal officials to hear the manaʻo of homestead leaders. We can no longer allow government agencies to ignore the wisdom of its citizens. My own father – 88 years old, pure Hawaiian, an expert farmer and rancher – has waited over half his life for a simple allotment of land.”

Homestead and Waitlist leaders across the state are working in unity to present a spending plan. For more information contact policy@hawaiianhomesteads.org.